Property Rights

Miami Beach's $100,000 Fines for Airbnb Rentals Are Illegal, Court Rules

Miami Beach's crackdown on Airbnb is "in jarring conflict" with a state law capping municipal fines at $1,000 per day, Judge Michael Hanzman ruled.

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Massive fines levied against Miami Beach homeowners who rented their properties out via Airbnb are illegal under state law, a Florida judge ruled on Monday.

Miami Beach had imposed huge fines in an attempt to prevent residents from offering short-term rentals. The city argued that the massive penalties—ranging from $20,000 to $100,000—were necessary because smaller fines had been insufficient to stop homes from being rented on Airbnb and similar services. The city has also considered jailing residents who violate a ban on short-term rentals.

But Miami Beach's crackdown on Airbnb is "in jarring conflict" with a state law capping municipal fines at $1,000 per day, Judge Michael Hanzman ruled.

"The caps set by the legislature…may not in the city's view be adequate to force (or motivate) Miami Beach's wealthiest property owners to comply with these ordinances," Hanzman wrote. "The city may (or may not) be correct, but that is a matter it must take up in Tallahassee."

Hanzman struck down the city's ban on Airbnb as "illegal and unenforceable," which means short-term rentals are once again legal in Miami Beach—at least until the city council approves a new ban, which seems likely. For now, that's good news for property owners like Natalie Nichols, the longtime Miami Beach resident who filed the lawsuit which resulted in Monday's ruling.

"This ruling vindicates the property rights of all Miami Beach homeowners who share their homes as short-term rentals," said Matt Miller, an attorney with the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute, which was representing Nichols. "Home-sharers in Miami Beach no longer have to fear that they will end up in financial ruin for exercising this essential property right."

Miami Beach's aggressive policing of short-term rentals has made headlines for years.

But the question of whether the city was allowed to impose five- and six-figure fines for short-term rentals always seemed like a pretty straightforward one. Florida state law is explicit: municipalities may not impose fines of more than $1,000 per day—no small punishment for most people. Indeed, even one Miami Beach city councilman (who supported the city's massive fines) described the penalties as "grossly disproportional but not excessive due to the rental rates that can be commanded here."

The fines are only part of the story. Last year, Miami Beach officials revoked a certificate of occupancy from a home being offered as a short-term rental and ordered utility services to shut off electricity, sewage, and water to the property. The city forced the property owner to prove his home wasn't being used for short-term rentals before it would restore his utilities.

But after this week's ringing defeat in court, Miami Beach officials should recognize that their war on Airbnb is completely out of bounds. Instead of targeting law-abiding property owners with massive fines, the city should go after nuisance rentals (if there are any) using existing laws meant to target specific problematic behavior. Otherwise, the city should mind its own business and let Miami Beach homeowners do as they please with their property.

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  1. Oh sure, just let the neighbors build a radioactive toxic waste dump right next to an elementary school for crippled orphans. If you don’t let Miami Beach impose massive fines on AirBnB rentals this is exactly what you’re proposing.

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    2. You should read more, you need to study. Right to property should be a universal law, using your property as you please is your right, but without doing anything that will interfere with your property such as having radioactive waste, your comparison was stupid.

      1. By your property I mean doing anything is allowed as long as it does not interfere with other people’s property. It is the libertarian principle.

        1. But if you allow AirBnB then you will get radioactive disposal sites too. Think of the children!

          1. We are supposed to stop having children.
            What will the excuse be then?

      2. Uh, I think you should look up Poe’s Law.

      3. Lrn 2 sarcasm, m8

  2. Miami shouldn’t be fining property owners who rent out their units, it should be subsidizing them, for bringing in a few last tourists before the rising oceans wipe Miami from the map for good.

    1. One can only hope and pray.

  3. >>in an attempt to prevent residents from offering short-term rentals

    in an attempt to control.

  4. But after this week’s ringing defeat in court, Miami Beach officials should recognize that their war on Airbnb is completely out of bounds.

    Only if the officials are personally on the hook for their illegal acts.

    1. There was a time when we’d run officials who pulled stunts like this out of town on a rail, I’m not quite sure why we stopped that practice.

      1. Heating the tar enough for the feathers to stick causes global warming climate change.

        1. What if I came up with some sort of non-GMO, vegan-safe feather adhesive that didn’t require heat? Of course the feathers don’t come from actual animals, I’m not a monster.

          1. Good point. Can we make the feathers from the plastic straws we can no longer use?

      2. Because all the libertarian controlled cities don’t support government sponsored rail, duh

        1. Fun fact, that phrase has nothing to do with rail as we think of it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riding_a_rail

          While I agree that the government should not provide the rail used for this, I’m sure a couple of Miami beach homeowners would chip in for one if it meant this particular variety of fuckery stopped.

          1. We? I think of the rail as being a length of wood, like a fence rail.
            I would guess that a piece of metal rail from a railway would be inconvenient to acquire and too heavy to carry.

            1. Exactly, a wooden fence rail.
              As split rail fences were often not fastened, it was easy and convenient to grab the top rail from the nearest fence when the need arose.

              “Being ridden on a rail was typically a form of extrajudicial punishment administered by a mob, sometimes in connection with tarring and feathering, intended to show community displeasure with the offender so they either conformed their behavior to the mob’s demands or left the community.”
              Being civilized, we now just use twitter for the same purpose.

  5. Damn!
    A lot of bureaucrats, politicians and their cronies in Miami will have to go to their expensive French restaurant only six times a week instead of seven.
    Happy now?

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